You Are Not Your Follower Counts, Alexa Rankings, Etc.

Social media professional, Chris Brogan, meditating on the Internet’s impact on “time and friendship” wonders if a “social crash” may be imminent.

If I talk to 100 people on twitter for 6 minutes each, that’s 10 hours. If I respond personally to 120 of the 600 or so emails and contacts I get a day, that’s 2 hours. If I call 10 people for six minutes each to “catch up,” that’s another hour.
100 small Twitter conversations.
120 emails.
10 phone calls.
13 hours.
That’s not work. That’s not necessarily business (though touch and networking aids business). That’s just contact.

I like how Brogan says this is not “work.” Of course, for some people it is work, but for most all this daily hyper-connectivity is not work. Given that it’s not “work,” why the hell do so many people make such large investments in the social space?
“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”
The truth is we have our identities tied up in this thing. And in many cases we’ve invested years of effort carefully cultivating these identities. For instance, I’m the AdPulp guy, even though keeping this site moving is only a small part of what I do. As long as I keep this particular ball in the air, I have an audience. Should I choose to let this ball drop, then I go back to being a relatively obscure ad guy.
Here’s the thing though, I make a decent living as a relatively obscure ad guy. Whereas, there’s no living to be made herein. In Brogan’s case his online identity is closely tied to his business identity. One might think that’s also the case for me, but it’s not. The advertising community sees me as an ad blogger, because that’s what I continue to show day in and day out. When there’s a need for such a person, I’m the one to call. When it’s copy or creative direction that’s needed, the call goes to the person who skilfully frames themselves as a copywriter/creative director.
Like Brogan, I struggle with the time commitment social media requires, but my struggle goes deeper. I’ve created an online identity that doesn’t pay and doesn’t fit who I really am. It feels strange to admit that, but it’s also a step in the right direction for me. AdPulp does produce for me on many levels, but it does not produce sustainable income. Maybe that’s okay. Only I can say, and I’m having a tough time concluding my argument.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Well put. Refreshingly honest. You’ve nailed what most of us are reluctant to admit, especially publicly.
    –Brian (aka The 60 Second Director)

  2. Thanks Brian. I’m on vacation this week and things sometimes become clearer when you step back a few.

  3. David,
    You and I have talked about this subject a few times. So I thought I’d share some additional perspective from further down the road.
    Like any networking, social networking is a process, not an action. As such, I’ve found that anyone can make a “media” (in this case, social media) work for them, as long as that’s not the only thing they are doing.
    You say you are a blogger. That’s awesome. I wouldn’t change a thing. But how do you take that reputation doing one thing and parlay into a broader reputation? Instead of asking if social media or blogging is profitable, maybe we should be asking how social media and blogging can lead to other benefits that lead to profitability.
    Taking Brogan’s example, he was a blogger, who parlayed that into twitter dominance. Then he parlayed twitter into a book deal. Then he parlayed the book deal into a rather large day rate. And with each step, he gained more credibility (and money). Notice, it wasn’t social media alone that did this. It was networking in the old fashion way…moving from venue to venue, from media to media, building credibility.
    I’ve noticed a similar thing happening to me. As good as The BeanCast is, I needed to showcase my thinking on a blog. Then I treated both as additional networking venues, eventually leading to Ad Age Outlook. Now I have a show associated with a huge brand and that brings me even more credibility, opening doors previously closed to me in my face-to-face, email and phone networking.
    I think it’s very important to distinguish between the media and the plan. The plan needs to cross media boundaries and the media has to find its place within the plan. Where all the social media madness starts is when we flip this and make the plan equal the media.
    Just my two cents.
    Bob Knorpp
    Host of The BeanCast (
    Host of Ad Age Outlook (

  4. Blogging is a labor of love. For me that’s fine; for many it’s not. Hang in there, DB. What you do is “priceless.”

  5. @Steffan – You know I appreciate your support, as always. But you nailed it when you said what I do here is priceless. That’s pretty much the whole point.
    @Bob – Your insight here is right on, and I’ve been on the page you describe for a long, long time. What I’m admitting here is that blogging (in my particular case) does NOT lead to a broader reputation and the chance to make more money. And that’s my problem with it. If it did I wouldn’t mind that there’s so little income coming from the site itself.
    One of Brogan’s main points in his piece is how do we find the time for these “labors of love” or indirect selling methods, as the case may be? I’m speaking as a bootstrapped entrepreneur who is busy running a startup marketing services firm now. It’s like practicing martial art. My actions either produce revenue–directly or indirectly–or they are wasted motions.
    There are lots of excellent reasons to work for free. But working for free can’t be at the center of one’s work world. That’s not a good plan. Think about how an agency works–they may take on a pro-bono account or two, but it’s a small slice of the overall picture. And that’s what this is all about, the need for balance, productivity, wise time management and the right priorities.
    Imagine a band with lots of fans who never paid for an album or to attend a concert. The argument that “it’s okay, keep making music, it’ll lead to income down the line, maybe, someday,” is seriously flawed. Imagine that this imaginary band leader was also a successful producer. How would you advise this person? Keep making albums to build your network and boost your profile? Or focus on what actually works and pays the bills?

  6. This is exactly one of the reasons I have a problem understanding the concept of ‘freemium’ or some elements of the ‘cognitive surplus’
    Similar situation: exercise. For stars/entertainers; it’s a part of the package that almost directly affects the monetary compensation they expect to receive. For regular folks, there is a vague warranty of being healthier than a regular coach potato (thus MAYBE not paying for prescription drugs for hypertension; diabetes etc.) but that’s it. Unless you are Renee Zellweger, you won’t be paid to gain or lose pounds – you are a schmuck who has to do it for free

  7. Chris Maley says:

    As a former co-worker I can vouch for David’s talent, passion, and commitment from back in the day. Besides that, David is a blast to go to lunch with. I love all that he has done since.
    When David and I worked together at Integer—I started in ’98, he was already working there—David was the first “ad” person I met who believed in the potential of internet marketing. I had written a few websites, etc, done those annoying things called banners that were robbing time from the print jobs—I knew what this space was all about. Gimme some TV spots, man.
    Reading this post triggered memories of David coming into the office on the weekend and staying late working on his own web projects. As a Copywriter. His title was Copywriter and he knew more about the digital space than anybody in the agency. One time, I was in there on a Saturday, getting TIG work done, and David was in there carving his niche in this thing that I used to play video games on and read the news and look for cool-ass gnarly shit. He was working on his site(s), broadcasting his poetry, shouting his thoughts about live music, putting his insights out there. He was doing all of this in the ’90s. And he was doing it just because he felt like it. I didn’t understand what he was doing back then and how it related to what we did.
    David, you are in uncharted territory. But you’re bringing us along with you. Keep plugging. I’m privileged to have hung out in a cube on a random Sunday talking about this thing called digital that I didn’t get but you were so passionate about. I’m not as behind as I damn well should be, because of you. You’re leading the way. I’m playing catch up. I don’t respond enough to your smart thoughts here. But props, man.
    Another true story: I was in there on another Saturday when he was in there working on something web related. He said, “Do you want to know what I like best about working here? The bandwidth.” David, whose job title was Copywriter, said that. In 1999.
    I was bitching that I wasn’t hanging poolside in L.A. while the production house transferred film and got all of that post crap ready.
    Figure out how to pay David Burn money to explore the possibilities of the internet. We will all benefit from allowing David quality think time about this world. He already has been exploring it for a while now. Beers next time we’re in the same town, David. Peace man.

  8. Maley, you glorious bastard! Thanks for the memories man. I wish I could remember half the things I said once upon a time. Maybe that’s why I’m compelled to write the shit down.
    Come to Portland and all the not-Coors beers you can quaff are on me.

  9. Chris Maley says:

    All true stuff David. We’ll catch up soon.